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Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 September, 2003, 16:17 GMT 17:17 UK
Doctors shocked by prison sentence
Doctors said they are worried by the decision
Doctors say they are shocked by a judge's decision to jail one of their colleagues over the death of a teenage patient.

Dr Feda Mulhem was sentenced to eight months for the manslaughter at Nottingham Crown Court on Tuesday.

He received a further 10 months on five unrelated assault charges.

Mulhem had admitted unlawfully killing 18-year-old Wayne Jowett.

The teenager died after a toxic cancer drug was wrongly injected into his spine.

'Very worried'

However, doctors said the decision to give Mulhem a custodial sentence for the manslaughter was worrying.

"I think doctors will be very, very worried by it," said Mr Nizam Mamode of the British Medical Association.

I think doctors will be very, very worried by it
Mr Nizam Mamode,
British Medical Association
"Mistakes happen all the time in every walk of life.

"I think a lot of doctors will be concerned that if they do now make an error they may be facing criminal charges and possibly even jail."

Dr Edwin Borman of the BMA warned that the sentence would have repercussions for doctors across the country.

"This is going to be devastating," he told BBC News Online.

"There have been previous cases of this particular error and it is very disturbing that an individual doctor has been found culpable when in reality it is a failure of multiple parts of the system."

He added: "Doctors have become increasingly worried about our increasingly litigious society and the effects of that are now being seen.

"Doctors are beginning to practise defensively."

Dr Borman said the decision to jail Dr Mulhem for the manslaughter could damage government efforts to change the way the NHS deals with medical errors.

"The whole story is a terrible tragedy for the patient and their family.

"It is also comes at a time when the government is trying to get doctors to report errors and to learn from mistakes and to move away from the blame culture."

Uncommon case

Gerard Panting of the Medical Protection Society questioned the purpose of sending the doctor to jail for the manslaughter.

"It is comparatively uncommon for a doctor convicted of manslaughter to go to prison. The sentenced is usually suspended," he said.

"One must also wonder what is going to be served by the sentence.

"The fact that the doctor was convicted of manslaughter means that he will be investigated by the General Medical Council and that he will almost inevitably have his name erased from the medical register.

"This is for a minimum of five years but for all intents and purposes it is for life. That is adequate protection for the public," he said.

"This man has lost his livelihood and lost any chance of practising medicine ever again.

"The punishment for a doctor in this type of case even without a custodial sentence is a heavy price to pay."


SEE ALSO:
Doctor jailed over patient death
23 Sep 03  |  Health
Family still 'numb' after son's death
23 Sep 03  |  Nottinghamshire


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